How to make your own Swedish pea soup

Swedish pea soup is great comfort food for cold days, and the perfect budget option when you're short of cash after the holidays. Food writer John Duxbury shares his favourite recipe with The Local.

How to make your own Swedish pea soup
The traditional Swedish pea soup. Photo: Irina/Flickr


Makes: 6 portions

Time needed: 70 minutes (plus time for the peas to soak overnight)


500g (1¼ lb) dried yellow split peas

1 tbsp olive oil

2 sticks of celery (trimmed and finely diced)

2 onions (peeled and finely chopped)

½ tsp dried thyme

½ tsp dried oregano

250g (9oz) of good quality cooked smoked ham*

2 litres (8 cups) ham or chicken stock made with 3 bouilon cubes, salt, and freshly ground black pepper

1 tsp chopped fresh thyme and/or marjoram

(*Alternatively 500g of salted pork belly or bacon, in which case brown in the pan before using, then put to one side and follow the recipe as indicated below).


1. Rinse the split peas in cold water and leave to soak overnight. Drain them and put them to one side.

2. Put a large saucepan on a low heat and add the oil. Once hot, add the celery, onions, and dried herbs. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until soft but not coloured.

3. Add the peas, ham, and stock and heat until simmering. Skim off any foam and simmer with the lid on for 50 minutes.

4. Use tongs to pull out the ham and move it to a board. Chop and shred it up, discarding any rind and fatty pieces. Roughly mash the peas with a potato masher, then stir in the shredded ham and the fresh thyme and/or marjoram.

5. Season the soup with salt before serving if desired.


– Swedes tend to dip their spoons into mustard before taking a mouthful of the soup. Swedish mustard is slightly sweeter and less hot than English or French mustards and complements the soup really well. A piece of knäckebröd with cheese is commonly served together with the soup as well.

– Keeping with tradition, the pea soup is also served with hot Swedish punsch (a strong liqueur with arrack) followed by pancakes with strawberry jam and cream. The soup can be quite thick, so if you’d prefer it to be more soup-like, increase the amount of stock used. Any leftovers can be reheated and enjoyed the next day without a problem. 

– Pea soup and punsch is a traditional Thursday meal at Swedish universities.

Recipe courtesy of John Duxbury, Editor and Founder of Swedish Food

Enjoyed this article? Read about seven other delicious food dates in the Swedish calendar


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Five sweet treats you should be able to identify if you live in Sweden

Do you know your biskvi from your bakelse? Your chokladboll from your kanelbulle? Here's a guide guaranteed to get your mouth watering.

Five sweet treats you should be able to identify if you live in Sweden


The most famous of all Swedish cakes outside Sweden, the classic kanelbulle (cinnamon bun) is the symbol of Sweden abroad, no doubt helped by the fact that Swedish furniture giants IKEA stock frozen buns in their food stores for customers to bake off at home.

Forget American tear-apart cinnamon rolls baked in a pan and slathered with cream cheese frosting: a classic Swedish cinnamon bun is baked individually using a yeasted dough spread with cinnamon sugar and butter. The dough is then rolled up, sliced into strips which are then stretched out and knotted into buns, baked, glazed with sugar syrup and sprinkled with pearl sugar.

Home-made varieties skip the stretching and knotting step, rolling the cinnamon-sprinkled dough into a spiral instead which, although less traditional, tastes just as good.

Kanelbullar in Sweden often include a small amount of Sweden’s favourite spice: cardamom. If you’re a fan of cardamom, try ordering the kanelbulle‘s even more Swedish cousin, the kardemummabulle or cardamom bun, which skips the cinnamon entirely and goes all-out on cardamom instead.

Sweden celebrates cinnamon bun day (kanelbullens dag) on October 4th.

Photo: Lieselotte van der Meijs/


A great option if you want a smaller cake for your fika, the chokladboll or ‘chocolate ball’ is a perfect accompaniment to coffee – some recipes even call for mixing cold coffee into the batter.

They aren’t baked and are relatively easy to make, meaning they are a popular choice for parents (or grandparents) wanting to involve children in the cake-making process.

Chokladbollar are a simple mix of sugar, oats, melted butter and cocoa powder, with the optional addition of vanilla or coffee, or occasionally rum extract. They are rolled into balls which are then rolled in desiccated coconut (or occasionally pearl sugar), and placed in the fridge to become more solid.

Some bakeries or cafés also offer dadelbollar or rawbollar/råbollar (date or raw balls), a vegan alternative made from dried dates and nuts blended together with cocoa powder.

Chocolate ball day (chokladbollens dag) falls on May 11th.

Photo: Magnus Carlsson/


The lime-green prinsesstårta or ‘princess cake’ may look like a modern invention with it’s brightly-coloured marzipan covering, but it has been around since the beginning of the 1900s, and is named after three Swedish princesses, Margareta, Märta and Astrid, who were supposedly especially fond of the cake.

The cake consists of a sponge bottom spread with jam, crème pâtissière and a dome of whipped cream, covered in green marzipan and some sort of decoration, often a marzipan rose.

Prinsesstårtor can also be served in individual portions, small slices of a log which are then referred to as a prinsessbakelse.

Although the cakes are popular all year round, in the Swedish region of Småland, prinsesstårta is eaten on the first Thursday in March, due to this being the unofficial national day of the Småland region (as the phrase första torsdagen i mars is pronounced fössta tossdan i mass in the Småland dialect).

Since 2004, the Association of Swedish Bakers and Confectioners has designated the last week of September as prinsesstårtans vecka (Princess cake day).

Photo: Sinikka Halme, Creative Commons BY-SA 4.0.


Belonging to the more traditional cakes, a Budapestbakelse or “Budapest slice” is a type of rulltårta or “roll cake” similar to a Swiss roll, consisting of a light and crispy cake made from whipped egg whites, sugar and hazelnut, filled with whipped cream and fruit, often chopped conserved peaches, nectarines or mandarines, and rolled into a log.

The log is then sliced into individual portions and drizzled with chocolate, then often topped with whipped cream and a slice of fruit. 

Despite its name, the Budapest slice has nothing to do with the city of Budapest – it was supposedly invented by baker Ingvar Strid in 1926 and received the name due to Strid’s love for the Hungarian capital.

Of course, the Budapestbakelse also has its own day – May 1st.

Kanelbullar (left), chokladbollar (centre) and biskvier (right). Photo: Tuukka Ervasti/


Another smaller cake, a biskvi (pronounced like the French biscuit), consists of an almond biscuit base, covered in buttercream (usually chocolate flavoured), and dark chocolate.

Different variants of biskvier exist, such as a Sarah Bernhardt, named after the French actress of the same name, which has chocolate truffle instead of buttercream.

You might also spot biskvier with white chocolate, often with a hallon (raspberry) or citron (lemon) filling, or even saffransbiskvier around Christmastime.

Chokladbiskviens dag is celebrated on November 11th.